The older I get, the more I become a creature of habit. Sitting in my chair and watching the Bills at 1 p.m. on Sunday is a lifelong habit and one that I have looked forward to for a long time.
Last week, however, a trip to Texas took me out of my usual Sunday comfort zone. Thank God for The Nickel Bar in Austin as it offered up a wonderful Bills Backers atmosphere (highly recommended to any Bills fan in and around Austin) that I could avail myself of for the 2nd half of the game with the Dolphins. (Unfortunately family obligations and the noon Central time starting time precluded me from seeing the 1st half).
Traveling took me away from my usual over indulgence in social media and the wall of Bills coverage and commentary, good and bad, that I’m used to post game. It has left me feeling I am not quite as tuned in to what has been going on as normal.
The NFL, as noted in this column every week pretty much, is a week to week proposition and narratives change like the weather in Buffalo. Suffice it to say it seems clear the Bills narrative swung 180 degrees from the Cleveland game to the Miami game. (Thank God the offense and defense played well because social media would be “lit” about the special teams if things hadn’t turned out so well last week).
If you had told me before the season the Bills would be 7-3 after 10 games I’d have been ecstatic. With success, however, comes expectations, hopes and dreams. This week’s expectation: beat Denver. The hope: playoffs. The dream: playoff wins and Super Bowl. The reality: the next 6 weeks are filled with very tough games and looking beyond the Denver Broncos is fools gold.
Denver might be the best team in the league with a losing record. Tough 2 point losses to the Bears, Jaguars and Colts and an excruciating loss to the Vikings on the road last week… blown 20 point lead, turnover that killed another score before half and failure to score from inside the 10 yard line to end the game have sealed their fate for 2019.
The Broncos’ defense is no joke, trailing only the Bills and Patriots in the AFC rankings. Yes it is with a different team… but Vic Fangio’s Bears rode rough shod over the Bills offense last year and his reputation as an outstanding defensive coach is well earned. Their defense keeps them in games almost every single week. I do not expect the Bills to perform like they did on offense last week against the Dolphins against Denver.
The Broncos suffer from being lost at sea searching for a bona fide quarterback since Peyton Manning lead them to a Super Bowl win in 2015. To me, the key to this game is whether the Bills defense can stop the run and make Brandon Allen (the league may have to declare a moratorium on quarterbacks named Allen so I can keep them straight) try to beat them throwing.
Brandon Allen has good targets in Courtland Sutton (think John Brown numbers only much bigger body type) and rookie tight end Noah Fant, but I don’t think he can sit back and pick the Bills apart all day through the air. Stopping Phillip Lindsay, a pro bowler last year with a 4.9 yard per carry average and 5 touchdowns this year and Royce Freeman will determine the game’s outcome.
The Broncos also have a special teams group with a lower ranking than the Bills and a bounce back game from the Bills special teams (much like what the offense did against Miami after the dud in Cleveland) would be welcome. Andre Roberts has shown flashes the past 2 games and Sunday would be a nice time for a breakout for this unit. It will be a tough slog against the Broncos D and any advantage the special teams can offer might determine the outcome.
In any event, my chair beckons at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Routine from the past 56 years of Bills watching re-established, I couldn’t be happier! I’m not looking ahead to Dallas. Let’s hope the team isn’t either.
Editor’s babble: We welcome back our good friend and great contributor Joe Tauriello from his trip to Austin, TX. I can relate only too well about how comforting it is to get back into your Sunday routine during Bills season. You can find Joe on Twitter @Joe_Tauriello.